15 June 2009, Comment is Free
We need a new pluralism in politics, based on an acceptance of difference, to address the global effects of the financial crisisAdd Comment
12 June 2009, Press releasesNEWS HOOK
Monday, 15 June-Tuesday 16 June 2009
European ministers meet in Brussels on proposals to upgrade political and trade links with Israel
War on Want calls for sanctions over human rights
British foreign secretary David Miliband today faces pressure to call for the suspension of an agreement which gives Israel preferential trade deals with the European Union.
The pressure comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want, which says Israel's continuing aggression and human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank disqualifies it from trading preferences granted under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
European foreign ministers will hold talks next week with far-right Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to discuss the possible upgrading of EU-Israel relations.
Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The intensification of Israel's aggression and its increased human rights abuses against Palestinians mean that any upgrade of EU-Israel relations is unacceptable. As the people of Gaza enter the third year of a devastating Israeli blockade the EU-Israel Association Agreement must be suspended immediately until Israel complies with human rights law."
The meeting with Lieberman will take place during a gathering of the EU-Israeli Association Council in Brussels on Monday (15 June) and Tuesday (16 June).
These talks coincide with the second anniversary of the start of Israel's blockade of Gaza, and come five months after the Israeli assault on Gaza which left over 1,400 Palestinian dead, including hundreds of children.
War on Want argues Israel's human rights abuses have worsened since the EU began the process to upgrade relations with Israel last June.
*the Gaza blockade has been tightened, with vital commodities denied entry and people forced to live like prisoners.
*the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank has accelerated.
*the number of illegal checkpoints has increased from 602 last June to 632 in March.
In December the EU council said any upgrade "must be based on the shared values of both parties, particularly on democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedom, good governance and international humanitarian law."
War on Want is calling on Miliband to confirm the suspension of the upgrade, demand an immediate end to the Gaza blockade and suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement until Israel observes international humanitarian law and human rights.
CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728Add Comment
10 June 2009, Previous events
There was an impressive turnout as War on Want hosted its first ever Open Day for members and supporters. The event was a chance for our supporters from across the UK to visit our office, meet with staff and learn about our work fighting global poverty.Add Comment
09 June 2009, Press releases
Campaigners' breakthrough on Veolia hailed
The anti-poverty charity War on Want today welcomed reports that French company Veolia has abandoned the $500 million rail project linking Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
War on Want hailed the news as a significant victory for campaigners who have exposed companies that are complicit in Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.
Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, said: "The end of Veolia's involvement is an important victory for the International campaign to win justice for the Palestinian people. It sends a clear message to other companies profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine that their complicity will be challenged."
The charity's report Profiting from the Occupation in 2006 exposed the role of Veolia in the rail project.
Veolia has waste management contracts with local governments and university across the UK.
The rail project, due for completion by 2020, is set to run from west Jerusalem to the major Israeli settlements of French Hill, Neve Ya'akov and Pisgat Ze'ev, with further lines to settlements such as Gilo, near Bethlehem, and Ramot.
The Israeli government has openly stated that the project will help complete the annexation of East Jerusalem.
The Veolia move comes only days after US president Barack Obama called on Israel to cease building settlements, which, he said, violate earlier agreements and undermine peace efforts.
Next week UK foreign secretary David Miliband will join other ministers for Brussels talks on European Union proposals to upgrade political and trade links with Israel.
Miliband faces heavy pressure to oppose the upgrade after Israel's onslaught on Gaza.
War on Want has repeatedly called for an end to the EU-Israel ugrade.
NOTE TO EDITORS
The European Council meeting which Miliband will attend takes place on Monday (15 June) and Tuesday (16 June).
Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728
08 June 2009, Latest news
On the anniversary of the International Day of Action for Women's Health, Codemuh, a Honduran women's collective and War on Want partner organisation, brought together women from across Central America for a forum on workplace health and safety. Laia Blanch, War on Want Programmes Office, and Clare Hawkes of Prospect, visited Honduras for this historic meeting.
Over 80 delegates from six Central American countries recently gathered in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, for the International Forum of Work and Health, a landmark meeting that addressed health and safety in the workplace. The meeting, which was jointly organised by Codemuh and the Secretary of Work and Social Security, has raised public awareness of the severe danger that sweatshop conditions pose to workers' health.
After two days of roundtable discussion, the delegates agreed on the need to create a national occupational health policy based on more robust safety provisions and enforcement mechanisms. For its part, government authorities agreed to work closely with Codemuh to strengthen the country's labour law, which remains out of date and has not led to improvements in factory conditions. Reform legislation is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court, after which it will be passed on to National Congress. This piece of legislation was submitted by Codemuh in March 2008.
The government's willingness to work alongside civil society groups like Codemuh marks an important step towards full recognition of workers' rights in Honduras. There are currently 229 sweatshops in Honduras, which employ over 130,000 workers, the majority of whom are women. War on Want is proud to work alongside Codemuh as it campaigns for justice for workers in Honduras.
04 June 2009, Previous events
Thanks to the hundreds of festival revellers, young and old, who signed our petition at the Wychwood festival in Cheltenham last weekend.
War on Want is demanding that the UK government pass legislation to ensure that workers abroad producing goods for British supermarkets are paid a living wage. We were overwhelmed with the interest in our work and support for our campaign to end the exploitation of workers overseas. We also gave away many of our free reports, action cards and badges. We hope that everyone enjoyed the festival, and that Wychwood is the first of many successful stops for our colourful trolley tour this summer. If you want to invite us to your festival or take some campaigns materials for your stall, do let us know!Add Comment
19 May 2009, Latest news
While Madonna's controversial adoption attempts have put the small and landlocked African nation in the global spotlight, the struggles of ordinary Malawians for economic survival have received much less attention. As Malawians go to the polls today, street vendors are faced with the dilemma of whether to take seriously the promises made by opposition politicians.Add Comment
18 May 2009, Latest news
Two Palestinian activists who had been marking Workers' Day on 1 May by demonstrating in Ma'sara against the Separation Wall are being held in detention by the Israeli authorities.Add Comment
17 May 2009, Latest news
The world is facing economic crisis on a scale unseen for 80 years and now fears about the impact on the ‘real' economy appear to be coming true.
As more and more businesses go to the wall, rising unemployment levels are a clear and devastating indication of the problems that workers are facing worldwide. The International Labour Organisation is forecasting that more than 50 million workers could lose their jobs this year and up to 200 million more will be plunged into extreme poverty. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says that by next year jobless numbers in rich nations could rise by eight million to 42 million. The UK has just registered the biggest quarterly jump in unemployment since the 1981 depths of recession.
World leaders have responded by trying to preserve the system that is responsible for the crisis. Despite claiming that ‘the Washington consensus in favour of free markets has come to an end,' in reality Gordon Brown is leading calls to maintain these failed polices. Tens of millions of people will lose their jobs in developing countries and millions more in Europe under free trade plans promoted by the prime minister at the recent G20 summit.
War on Want's latest report, Trading Away our Jobs, is the first-ever study to calculate the numbers of jobs lost globally in the wake of trade liberalisation and to analyse the impact of free trade on employment. The evidence shows that free trade is no answer to the current economic crisis. At a time when unemployment is already rising sharply amid the global recession, further trade liberalisation will only exacerbate the threat to jobs. The report examines the impact of free trade agreements on employment. It also shows how trade liberalisation caused huge job losses in both Africa and Latin America, the continents that bore the brunt of initial experiments in structural adjustment and other free trade policies.
Following two decades of free market policies, compared to 1997 some 50 million more Africans are now trapped in poverty. Three in four workers in sub-Saharan Africa now face insecure employment due to 30 years of neoliberal economics, with only a quarter in waged and salaried posts, according to our study. In the manufacturing sector, between 1990 and 1995 real wages in Malawi plunged 73 per cent. Trade liberalisation in the 1980s and 1990s also brought huge job losses in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and Zimbabwe.
Zambia's two periods of trade liberalisation brought major job losses. Even now, over 20 years later, more than one in eight people are unemployed. But with little or no state support for the jobless, the stark choice is to find any work or face starvation. These ‘working poor' - an estimated four in five Zambian workers - labour in the informal economy with virtually no rights or trade union freedom. Nine in ten workers still do not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the two-dollars-a-day poverty threshold.
Latin America fared little better. During the 1990s, the jobless total in Latin America soared from 7.6 million to 18.1 million, with unemployment rises in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. In Brazil alone, net employment fell by 2.7 million between 1990 and 1997 and between the early 1990s and 2006, while farming jobs in Mexico slumped from 8.1 million to around six million amid trade liberalisation.
In many countries, trade liberalisation also led to sharp increases in income inequality and to deindustrialisation that continues to affect them today. This has paved the way for global investors to create sweatshops under the guise of foreign direct investment that would help recipients' long-term development prospects.
Despite this evidence of the impact of previous trade liberalisation, Brown is still leading calls for a conclusion to World Trade Organisation talks - the so-called Doha ‘development' round. The International Trade Union Confederation has calculated that millions of workers are at risk of losing their jobs under the proposals that are on the table. Even an EU impact assessment predicts significant job losses across the agricultural, industrial and service sectors of the developing world. Completion of the negotiations would threaten 7.5 million workers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other rich and poor countries. Poorer developing nations have consistently rejected the terms as unacceptable. Yet faced with the repeated collapse of the WTO negotiations, the G20 summit was cynically used as an opportunity to help conclude the process.
The EU has rushed even faster into bilateral deals to secure the access to new markets sought by its companies. Central to this process is the Global Europe strategy - a vision for a new wave of bilateral or regional free trade agreements with as many countries as possible. In these negotiations the EU is pressing to open up new areas of services and public procurement that have so far been safeguarded by developing countries. If the EU gets its way, vital policy tools to aid future development by supporting local industries will be removed and key public services like health and education will face privatisation.
Closer to home in Europe, where unemployment is already a significant problem, free trade agreements threaten mass redundancies. The jobs at risk are in agriculture, the region's surviving manufacturing sector - already under enormous pressure from China and other rising economic powers - as well as more hi-tech industries. Even the EU's own impact assessments state that trade liberalisation and globalisation cause "large-scale redundancies" and a "decline [in] employment terms and conditions" in Europe. Trade unions in particular are working to counteract the EU's drive to make the workforce more ‘flexible' and ‘competitive' on behalf of big business, by promoting their own ‘Decent Work' agenda. It remains clear, however, that both the number and quality of jobs are under serious pressure, a trend made even starker by recent European Court of Justice rulings that undermine basic rights for workers.
European leaders recognised the urgency of the employment crisis back in February by agreeing to a major jobs summit in May. Yet in March they withdrew en masse, leaving the decisions on the day to officials. Unions, MEPs and civil society have called the summit disappointing. Instead of the radical measures needed to stem job losses, the summit continued to promote the same free market policies that will increase unemployment in the EU and worldwide.
This lack of imagination and initiative compounds the employment problems that we face. Existing policies and institutions have created an economic system scarred by high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality - yet politicians are calling for more of the same when fundamental changes are needed. This year must mark a turning point, where the values of justice and public good rather than greed and private profit underpin our economic system. With the upcoming Euro elections, MEPs have a chance to begin to forge a new path for Europe. War on Want is one of scores of civil society organisations urging MEPs to pledge to look afresh at the EU's trade policies and reject the free trade shibboleth. With the jobs crisis growing daily, we cannot afford more ‘business as usual'.
Dave Tucker is trade campaigns officer for War on WantAdd Comment
15 May 2009, Previous events
War on Want joined thousands of people for a national demonstration on 16 May 2009 against the siege of Gaza.Add Comment
13 May 2009, Latest news
War on Want joined an emergency protest today outside Downing Street to mark the first visit to the UK by newly elected Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Lieberman is known for living in Nokdim, an illegal settlement south-east of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. The right-wing politician has made dangerous statements about the Palestinian people and continuously undermines their sovereignty and self determination. He was visiting London as part of a European tour to drum up political support for the upgrading of Israel's economic relations with the European Union and met with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
War on Want was demonstrating to put pressure on the British government to take action over Israel's war crimes and send a strong signal to Lieberman that Israel's blockade of Gaza must end immediately. We also called on the British government to reject any upgrading of EU/Israel relations whilst Israel continues its illegal occupation of Palestine.
The protest was called by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, British Muslim Initiative, Stop the War Coalition, CND, Palestinian Forum in Britain and was supported by War on Want.Add Comment
13 May 2009, Latest newsAs South Africa prepares for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the government has made plans to develop ‘World Class Cities' by eliminating the ‘slums' which are home to millions. This week our partner organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo is set go before the Constitutional Court to challenge the Slums Act, a law that will displace thousands from their homes.
In November 2008 Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM, literally ‘people living in shacks'), a Durban-based shack dweller movement and War on Want partner organisation, applied to the Durban High Court in order to challenge the constitutionality of the Elimination and Prevention of Re-Emergence of Slums Act. This Act, which was introduced by the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in 2007, is expected to lead to a large number of evictions of shack dwellers from their homes to temporary housing in so-called ‘transit camps'. These camps are often located far away from vital services and job opportunities, and many lack decent water and sanitation facilities.
|Watch a video of ABM members explaining the impact of the Slums Act on their community.
While the government refers to the camps as ‘temporary', many shack dwellers fear that they will be stuck in ‘government shacks' for years. Organisations such as ABM are campaigning for an upgrading of existing shack settlements and for the right of shack dwellers to a place in the city and against being dumped on the outskirts of urban areas in ‘transit camps'.
Despite the organisation's efforts to contest the constitutionality of the Slums Act, the Durban High Court dismissed ABM's application in January 2009, arguing that the Slums Act would make "things more orderly in this province" and that "the Act must be given a chance to show off its potential to help deal with problems of slums and slum conditions". The court outcome was a big blow to poor shack dwellers in KwaZulu-Natal Province whose livelihoods in many ways depend on living near to their places of work. Workers who have been moved to the camps are forced to spend the vast bulk of their income on transport.
In order to protect the right to a place in the city, ABM has now taken the Slums Act to the Constitutional Court. On the eve of the court challenge on Thursday 14 May 2009, War on Want supports ABM's fight for shack dwellers' right to the city and its struggle for the safety, dignity and equality of the poor.Add Comment
10 May 2009, South Africa diary
In the late afternoon we headed towards a farm where a workers' meeting was being held. It was almost 7:30pm when we arrived at the unheated community hall, where about 30 workers had gathered. Union or community meetings are typically over lunch or in the evenings outside of work hours and must be authorised by the farm owner.
10 May 2009, South Africa diary
We continued on our way to meet with some members of Sikhula Sonke whom we had arranged to speak with about their work. Tesco claims that its products are produced under ethical conditions. However, Kitty de Kock's story paints a very different picture. Kitty earns 325 rand a week (about £25) for 45 hours of work. She has two children and pays 330 rand a year for each child's school fees. On her wage she only provide her family with bread and coffee for breakfast and lunch and rice, potatoes and occasionally some meat for dinner. Buying new clothes, school materials and toys for her children would require a miracle.
09 May 2009, South Africa diary
This was a busy day not only for us visitors, but also for the farm workers in the provinces of Wellington and Ceres that we met.
Wendy Pekeur, General Secretary of Sikhula Sonke, spoke to a reporter for The Guardian about evictions, one of the most pressing issues facing South African workers. "One million farm workers, of whom 77 % are women and children, have been evicted from their homes since 1994. Of all the evictions, 99% are illegal, despite the fact that the South African constitution holds that no person can be evicted without a court order."War on Want invited The Guardian journalist to South Africa in order to experience first hand the conditions facing thousands of workers who supply Tesco with fruit and wine.
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